Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis

Abstract

The primary objective of this investigation was to quantitatively identify which training variables result in the greatest strength and hypertrophy outcomes with lower body low intensity training with blood flow restriction (LI-BFR). Searches were performed for published studies with certain criteria. First, the primary focus of the study must have compared the effects of low intensity endurance or resistance training alone to low intensity exercise with some form of blood flow restriction. Second, subject populations had to have similar baseline characteristics so that valid outcome measures could be made. Finally, outcome measures had to include at least one measure of muscle hypertrophy. All studies included in the analysis utilized MRI except for two which reported changes via ultrasound. The mean overall effect size (ES) for muscle strength for LI-BFR was 0.58 [95% CI: 0.40, 0.76], and 0.00 [95% CI: −0.18, 0.17] for low intensity training. The mean overall ES for muscle hypertrophy for LI-BFR training was 0.39 [95% CI: 0.35, 0.43], and −0.01 [95% CI: −0.05, 0.03] for low intensity training. Blood flow restriction resulted in significantly greater gains in strength and hypertrophy when performed with resistance training than with walking. In addition, performing LI-BFR 2–3 days per week resulted in the greatest ES compared to 4–5 days per week. Significant correlations were found between ES for strength development and weeks of duration, but not for muscle hypertrophy. This meta-analysis provides insight into the impact of different variables on muscular strength and hypertrophy to LI-BFR training.

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Correspondence to Jeremy P. Loenneke.

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Communicated by Susan A. Ward.

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Loenneke, J.P., Wilson, J.M., Marín, P.J. et al. Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 1849–1859 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2167-x

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Keywords

  • KAATSU
  • Hypertrophy
  • Strength
  • Vascular occlusion training